Monday, September 24, 2007

Saudi Cleric Salman Al-Odeh Slams Osama bin Laden

Ex-friend of Bin Laden?
(Image from Islam Online)

I've been sitting on this old news because I didn't know enough about Salman al-Odeh (aka Salman al-Oadah aka Salman al-Ouda aka Salman al-Awdah).

I first read of al-Odeh's condemnation of Osama bin Laden's terrorism in an article at MEMRI:
"I say to my brother Osama [bin Laden]: How much blood has been shed, and how many innocent people, children, elderly, and women have been killed, displaced, or banished in the name of Al-Qaeda? Would you be pleased to meet Allah while you bear responsibility for hundreds or even millions of people?" ("Saudi Cleric Salman Al-Odeh Slams 'Brother' Osama bin Laden," MEMRI, Special Dispatch Series, September 20, 2007, No. 1717)
According to Fawaz A. Gerges, writing for Yale Global:, this is a first for al-Odeh:
"Although al-Oadah and other senior Muslim scholars condemned the 9/11 attacks, they had refrained from direct criticism of bin Laden. With al-Oadah's new frontal assault on the elusive Al Qaeda leader, any ambiguity vanished. He holds bin Laden personally accountable for the occupation of Muslim lands in Afghanistan and Iraq, displacement of millions of Iraqis, killings of thousands of Afghans, internment and torture of promising and deluded young Muslims, and a tarnished image of Islam all over the world." (Fawaz A. Gerges, "Disowned by Mentor, Bin Laden Seeks New Pastures," Yale Global, 19 September 2007)
Gerges says that al-Odeh had previously "condemned the 9/11 attacks," but I haven't yet seen that condemnation, so I cannot comment upon it. Al-Odeh's current criticism seems clear enough:
"My brother Osama, what happened on 9/11 was the killing of several thousands, maybe less than 3,000, who died aboard the planes and in those towers, whereas there are unknown preachers, through whom Allah has guided hundreds of thousands of people, who have been enlightened by the light of Islam, and whose hearts have been filled with the love of Allah. Is the difference not clear between one who kills and one who gives life?" (MEMRI)
Al-Odeh may be concerned for his own soul, for he writes further, asking Bin Laden:
"Are [you] determined to come to power, even if it is over the bodies of thousands and hundreds of thousands of policemen, soldiers, ordinary Muslims, or innocent people who are sometimes killed -- and then you say that they will be resurrected according to their intentions. Indeed they will, but the question is how we shall be resurrected, and how we shall appear when we meet our God, when so much blood has been shed under our patronage, whether we like it or not." (MEMRI)
Gerges quotes al-Odeh as pleading to Allah:
"O Allah! I plead my innocence to You from what Osama is doing, and from those who affiliate themselves to his name or work under his banner." (Gerges, "Disowned by Mentor")
One wonders what has taken al-Odeh so long to condemn Bin Laden, especially since he seems so concerned here about the blood "shed under our patronage." Perhaps he only gradually came to his conclusions, for he was one of the 26 Saudi scholars signing a fatwa in November 2004 that endorsed resistance in Iraq:
Without a doubt, fighting the occupiers is a duty of [all] who [are] able. It is a "defense jihad," and it comes under the law of rebutting the aggressor. It does not require a jihad of initiative or demand. It [defense jihad] does not require leadership but is employed as much as possible, as God said: "Be as pious as much as you can." (cf. the ninth signatory Salman Ben Fahd Al Awda to "Open Sermon to the Militant Iraqi People," Frontline (Third Summary Point))
Even earlier, prior to the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, al-Odeh is said to have been aligned with Bin Laden:
The clerics, Safar Hawali and Salman Ouda, were identified in the first World Trade Center bombing trial as spiritual advisers to bin Laden. (Susan Schmidt, "Spreading Saudi Fundamentalism in U.S.," Washington Post, October 2, 2003, Page A01)
Moreover, a report by Dan Darling in The Weekly Standard suggests rather close relations:
While al-Ouda has long been characterized as a "friend" of Osama bin Laden, federal investigators told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in March 2003 that he and al-Hawali "have direct contact" with Osama bin Laden. In a number of al Qaeda propaganda videos, bin Laden has praised al-Ouda for "enlightening" the Muslim youth as well as for his support of jihadi causes. (Dan Darling, "Jihad TV," The Weekly Standard, March 24, 2006)
Darling also notes:
There is evidence connecting al-Ouda to one of the suspected masterminds of the 2004 Madrid train bombings. In September 2004, El Mundo and Corriere della Sera reported that Rabei Osman Ahmed, a former Egyptian army explosives expert and one of the purported masterminds of the bombings, was quoted in conversations wiretapped by Italian authorities as saying that al-Ouda was "Everything, everything" to him and that "I worked for him [al-Ouda] in Spain. I did really well in that period, in which I earned 2,000 euros ($2,400) a month. There were days I earned 1,000 euros ($1,200)." (Darling, "Jihad TV")
I suppose that all of this is hearsay, rumor, circumstantial evidence, and lack of proof, but it doesn't seem to leave clear distance between al-Odeh and Bin Laden. Sheikh al-Odeh, therefore, may be concerned about more than his soul in his recent attempt at a clean break from Bin Laden.

I wonder, as well, if the Anbar Awakening phenomenon has influenced al-Odeh. Al-Qaeda tortured and killed so many Sunni Muslims in the western, Anbar region of Iraq that the former insurgents there have turned against Al-Qaeda and aligned themselves with the Americans for the purpose of eliminating Al-Qaeda from Anbar. Sheikh al-Odeh cannot expect much influence among Iraqi Sunnis so long as his name is tainted by an association with Bin Laden and his organization. Moreover, al-Odeh may now be deeply concerned about a potential loss of Sunni power to the Shi'ites in Iraq and the entire Gulf region unless the Sunnis concentrate less upon ideological purity and more upon Realpolitik.

Meaning: explicitly ditch Bin Laden, implicitly support the Sunnis, and discreetly quieten down about the Americans ... for a while.

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